One of my teachers...
Dika Newlin Dies at 82
By Frank Cadenhead
July 26, 2006
Composer Dika Newlin, one of the last surviving students of
Arnold Schoenberg, died July 22 in Richmond, Virginia at the
age of 82. Author of the 1980 book "Schoenberg Remembered," she
achieved celebrity status when she partnered with Michael Moore
to star in his documentary "Dika: Murder City." She composed
operas, a symphony, a concerto and chamber music, taught for
over 60 years, translated important works on contemporary music,
was a sometimes actor in low-budget movies, scored the film "Mark
of the Devil 666" and wrote about classical music for the Richmond
Times-Dispatch. Her exploration of pop music in later life earned
her the title of "octogenarian punk rocker" and "one of (Richmond's)
most recognizable eccentrics."
Born in Portland, Oregon, she was composing on the piano at the
age of eight and left home for Los Angeles when only 14. It was
at UCLA that she studied with Arnold Schoenberg as well as with
pianists Rudolph Serkin and Arthur Schnabel. Three years later
she continued her studies at the University of Michigan and
later, at the age of 22, earned her doctorate from Columbia
University in New York. She taught for six decades at Virginia
Commonwealth University, where in her final tenure she was noted
for her "hands-off" teaching, "the polar opposite of Schoenberg's
overbearing style," according to Mark Holmberg in the Times-Dispatch
The Moore documentary refers to Newlin's song "Murder City,"
written at a time when Richmond was the "murder capital" of
America. One reviewer, commenting on the rough quality of the
film, wrote, "the film's production flaws are easily overlooked
by the mad genius of Dika Newlin, a woman who presents the facade
of sincerity and intelligence during conversation, but who turns
into a raving maniac whenever she steps before a microphone while
the music plays." Her and Moore's "Murder City" documentary made
movie critic Phil Hall's "10 Best Films You Never Saw" list. Her
famously off-key performances in her late punk-music style were
revered by the locals.
It was Moore and his wife who found her with a broken arm when
they went to check on her on June 30. She was moved to a care
facility, where she refused feeding tubes in the final days.
Moore and a few friends -- she had little family -- were with
her at the end.
A moving obit by Mark Holmberg is at
Her work with Moore and subsequent CDs and DVDs, along with
samples of her music, can be found at: www.moorevideoandmusic.com.